FOR THE OCOTEA!

This summer I worked with Kellie Kuhn to study the mutualistic relationship between Myrmelachista ants and Ocotea trees.

 

There once was an ant on a plant

“I would love to leave, but I can’t”

The plant was her home

So she could not be gone

Without the plant shouting her chant:

 

“I am your bright and morning star.

Together you know that we are

Mutualistic,

So be realistic

Without me you can’t get too far.”

 

She still dared to dream her dream,

Even while serving the queen.

Until one day

She stood to say

“This is not the life for me.”

 

So she left with only a “See ya!”

And climbed out of the Ocotea

She reached the ground

And there she found

A forest of Fabaceae.

 

There were four lined up in a row

On the last was a bright orange bow

With a sudden burst

She climbed up the first

And decided to make it her home.

 

Soon the sun started to shine

And she thought “All this is mine”

Until she heard

Those familiar words

“All to protect our divine!”

 

Her plant had begun to lean

Causing the Ocotea to scream

Hearing the cries

Myrmelachista arise

And clear the close plant from the scene.

 

They pruned and sprayed their acid

So the seedling would die more rapid

The plant turned black

And that was that

Now there’s only a space most vapid.

 

She must decide what to do

So on she went to tree two

But the same happened here

And she began to fear

As to plant number three she moved.

 

The farther she ran from her home

The more she began to groan

The Ocotea would afford

Her room and board

But instead she sat there alone.

 

As she sat in her pondering state

She heard screams that sounded irate

For up in the trees

A caterpillar gleamed

And smiled hungrily as he ate.

 

Without a moment to think

She climbed her host in a wink

And joined the workers

To push the percher

Off the leaf, over the brink.

 

Happily, she stayed in the tree

Now this is where she should be

“For the Ocotea!” she yelled

As all their voices swelled

“This is the perfect life for me!”

 

Celena Alford
Senior Biological Engineering Student
North Carolina A&T State University
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